CRISPR’s Catch-22: the Promise and Peril of Gene Editing

MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge Posted 01.12.16

MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge to Host Internationally Recognized Experts Debating the Ethical Questions Involved in Exploiting the “Biggest Biotech Discovery of the Century”

CAMBRIDGE, MA–(Marketwired – Jan 12, 2016) – CRISPR is heralded as the biotechnology breakthrough holding the promise of delivering profoundly innovative cures for diseases through gene editing and manipulation.

Short for Clustered Regularly-Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, CRISPR also raises a host of ethical questions that the industry is grappling with — even as it explores dozens of potential new approaches for treating illnesses ranging from cancer to muscular dystrophy and other genetic diseases and disorders.

On February 3, at the Broad Institute, an MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge (MITEF) Innovation Series will look at the gene-editing landscape with some of CRISPR’s leading minds. Among the questions they will explore: How soon can we capitalize on these opportunities to solve the major healthcare problems of society? What is the scope of problems we can really solve? And how serious are the concerns relating to unethical uses of the technology, and do we need to explicitly regulate them?

George Church, a CRISPR pioneer and co-founder of startup gene therapy firm, Editas Medicine, which soon will become the first publicly traded company in the sector, has said the technology can be used for efforts as diverse as bringing the wooly mammoth back from extinction. A panelist for the upcoming forum, Church has been outspoken on both the rewards and risks inherent with the technology. A recent report in the Washington Post described the dilemma this way: “[CRISPR] offers great promise for treating diseases. But the technique also works as well on ‘germline’ cells, which include eggs and sperm and embryos. That kind of editing is ethically problematic: Any changes in the laboratory would become heritable in the species.”

The evening’s panel will be moderated by MIT Technology Review Senior Editor for Biomedicine Antonio Regalado, and includes:

  • George J. Annas, JD, MPH, William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor and Director, Center for Health Law, Ethics & Human Rights, BU School of Public Health, School of Medicine, and School of Law. Annas is author of numerous books on medical law and bioethics including Worst Case Bioethics (Oxford, 2010).
  • George Church, Ph.D, Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Professor of Health Sciences and Technology, Harvard and MIT.
  • Dr. Bill Lundberg, Chief Scientific Officer, CRISPR Therapeutics. Lundberg was previously vice president and head of translational medicine at Alexion Pharmaceuticals and held senior positions at Taligen Therapeutics, Genzyme and Wyeth (now Pfizer).
  • Andrés Treviño chronicled his son’s treatment for and eventual cure of a rare genetic disease in the book Andy & Sofia (Amazon, 2011) and has since become a frequent speaker and outspoken advocate for stem cell research and therapy.

Event Schedule

5:30 – 6:00 Registration, Networking & Light Snacks
6:00 – 8:00 Program
8:00 – 9:00 Networking

Sponsors supporting this event include Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc.; CHEN PRHamilton Brook Smith Reynolds; Morse, Barnes-Brown & Pendleton; and Wolf Greenfield.

Click here for more information and to register.

About The MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge
The MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge is the founding chapter and one of 27 worldwide chapters comprising the MIT Enterprise Forum, Inc. Offering more than 40 programs and events annually that inspire innovation, MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge initiatives facilitate critical one-on-one mentoring while providing team services that increase the skills and expertise necessary for entrepreneurs to succeed.

Katja Wald
MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge
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Shannon Todesca
CHEN PR for MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge
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